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Muriel Pokross

b. 1913

Muriel Pokross grew up in the Jewish communities of Boston’s West End and Roxbury, later moving with her family to Brookline.  She graduated from Smith College in 1934, earned her M.A. from the Prince School at Simmons, and worked in retail until marrying the lawyer and philanthropist David Pokross in 1936.  After raising three children she returned to Boston University to earn her MA in education, then worked part-time as a rehabilitation counselor for the hearing impaired for 25 years. Her interview focuses on her family relationships and marriage, especially her husband’s experiences as the lone Jewish lawyer in a ‘Boston Brahmin’ firm.  A highlight of the narrative is a detailed tour through her eclectic art collection.  She also describes the changes in her life that come with aging and the ways she continues to stay active into her eighties. 

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Scope and Content Note

Muriel's interview focuses on her family relationships and marriage, especially her husband's experiences as the lone Jewish lawyer in a 'Boston Brahmin' firm.  A highlight of the narrative is a detailed tour through her eclectic art collection.  She also describes the changes in her life that come with aging and how she stays active into her eighties. Muriel grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the middle of three children.  Her father ran the family dress manufacturing business, and her mother was a homemaker.  As a young girl, Muriel took elocution classes, dance lessons and attended Hebrew school at Temple Mishkan Tefilla, where her parents were members.  She traces her family's immigration history.  Her parents were born in the United States, but their parents immigrated from Russia.  When Muriel was thirteen, her family moved to Brookline, but she continued to attend Girls’ Latin School in Roxbury, commuting two miles on foot each day.  Muriel talks about her decision to attend Smith College and her experiences there, including her junior year abroad in France, studying at the Sorbonne.  Muriel lived through the Great Depression and both World Wars.  She reflects on their impact on her and the country.  In 1934, Muriel graduated from Smith and hoped to go to the Simmons School of Social Work, but instead went to the Prince School of Education for Store Service, an abbreviated graduate program offered at Simmons.  Muriel was introduced to her husband-to-be, David Pokross, who was working as a lawyer and would later serve in the Navy during World War II.  She recounts their courtship, wedding, and honeymoon.  Muriel continued to work in retail until she was married.  A year later, in 1937, their first child was born.  When Muriel became aware of the Holocaust during World War II, she and her husband lent their efforts to help and serve Jewish refugees and organizations.  Muriel talks about raising her children and how their lives unfolded.  Muriel and her family joined Temple Israel in Boston, and her children attended Sunday school there.  She recalls the services, the rabbis, and her connection to the community through Temple Israel.  Throughout the interview, Muriel also discusses family recipes, holiday traditions, leisure activities, art collecting, her grandchildren, and involvement in various community organizations.  When all of her kids were in school, Muriel returned to school, earning a master's degree in education from Boston University.  She worked as a rehabilitation counselor for the hearing impaired in Boston for twenty-five years.  Muriel shares her art collection with the interviewer, including pieces from her favorite California artist, William Wylie.  Muriel reflects on the psychoanalytic movement and how she and David became friendly with physicians who came to the United States during World War II.  This was an opportunity for Muriel to meet interesting, intelligent, and creative people from different cultures.  Finally, Muriel reflects on how values have been passed down from one generation to the next in her family and her close relationship with her family.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Muriel Pokross. Interviewed by Ellen Rovner. 20 December 1996, 30 June 1997. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 1, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/pokross-muriel>.

Oral History of Muriel Pokross by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.